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Five-minute history: Fort Worth takes flight in the 1950s and 1960s

In the latest installment of our five-minute history series, we’re looking back at the 1950s and 1960s and the transportation milestones of Panther City.

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The 1950s Greater Fort Worth International Airport preceded the transportation hub of DFW Airport in the 1970s.

Photo courtesy of UTA Libraries

While “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” may have premiered in 1987, they marked the headlines of Fort Worth in the 1950s and 1960s. We’re diving back into our five-minute history series with an overview of Fort Worth’s mid-century transportation milestones.

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Crowds gathered for the opening of the Greater Fort Worth International Airport on April 16, 1953.

Photo courtesy of UTA Libraries

✈️ Look to the skies

The west side of town has produced aircraft since World War II, when the Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation factory, or Bomber Plant, opened in 1942. In 1954, General Dynamics assumed operations of the plant, kicking off private aviation manufacturing in Cowtown, a legacy that led to the sale to Lockheed in 1993.

In the early 1950s, Meacham Field was serviced by major airlines like Braniff Airways and American Airlines before the opening of the Greater Fort Worth International Airport in 1953. Later renamed Amon G. Carter Field, the airport brought fanfare and luxury to air travel in advance of DFW Airport.

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The Forest Park Miniature Railroad has graced Trinity Park since the 1950s.

Photo courtesy of Forest Park Miniature Railroad

🚂 All aboard

While the railroad reached Panther City eight decades earlier, a new locomotive hit the tracks in the 1950s: the Forest Park Miniature Railroad. After a brief hiatus, the family-friendly train started chugging once again in September of 2023.

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The state’s first four-way interchange, known as the “Mixmaster,” was completed in 1958.

Photo courtesy of UTA Libraries

🚗 Eyes on the road

Loop 820 began to surround the city in the late 1950s + I-35 West — previously known as US Highway 81 — reached Panther City in the early 1960s.

In 1958, the state’s first four-level interchange opened southeast of downtown on old US Highway 80 — which later became I-30. Known as “The Pretzel” or the “Mixmaster,” it cost $1,220,000 and has since been upgraded to a five-level stack exchange.

Transportation wasn’t the only automotive goal of the era — car racing was rising in popularity with daring races at Riverside Drive Speedway from 1949 to 1955. The Lancaster Avenue dirt track was a quarter-mile long and belonged to the Texas Stock Car Racing Association.

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